3,100 Google employees are petitioning the company's CEO to pull out of a Pentagon AI program. The petition signed by over 3,000 employees of the tech giant implored CEO Sundar Pichai to pull Google out of the project which is aimed at utilizing artificial intelligence to improve drone strike accuracy.
The petition takes it one step further than simply pulling out of the program, the letter urged Pichai to enforce a policy that keeps Google or its subsidiaries from creating "warfare technology." The proposed policy would prevent Google from even sharing its technology if it were to be given to government agencies. Recently, Google announced it would lend AI TensorFlow programming kits to the Pentagon's Project Maven prompting outrage from the company's own employees since it would be used to improve drone technology.
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Project Maven was announced last May and is described as a next-gen application of machine learning to process big data for "actionable" intelligence more quickly. Some applications would see the tech used to automate administrative tasks while other areas would see benefits to drone's targeting systems to better identify targets and civilians.
A portion of the Google employee's petition reads, "Amid growing fears of biased and weaponized AI, Google is already struggling to keep the public's trust. The argument that other firms, like Microsoft and Amazon, are also participating doesn't make this any less risky for Google. Google's unique history, its motto Don't Be Evil, and its direct reach into the lives of billions of users set it apart."
Google released an official statement on the matter of the petition saying:
"An important part of our culture is having employees who are actively engaged in the work that we do. We know that there are many open questions involved in the use of new technologies, so these conversations - with employees and outside experts - are hugely important and beneficial.
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Maven is a well-publicized DoD project and Google is working on one part of it - specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes and using open-source object recognition software available to any Google Cloud customer. The models are based on unclassified data only. The technology is used to flag images for human review and is intended to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work.
Any military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns. We're actively engaged across the company in a comprehensive discussion of this important topic and also with outside experts, as we continue to develop our policies around the development and use of our machine learning technologies."
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